Baked Mini Spinach and Sausage Arancini

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A plate of baked arancini rice balls with a dish of marinara sauceSpinach and Sausage Arancini

These mini baked Italian rice balls are made with brown rice, chicken sausage, spinach and mozzarella cheese. Served with some warm marinara sauce, they make the perfect finger foods for the Holiday season or any time you want to serve appetizers.

A plate of brown rice balls with crumbled sausage and pieces of spinach

The Holidays are right around the corner, so this week I am sharing Holiday recipes to get you in the spirit. I don’t know about you, but I love Italian rice balls. They are often deep fried and high in calories so I typically stay away unless I’m making this Sicilian Rice Ball Casserole which turns rice balls into a meal!

I came across a recipe from the Baby&Toddler on the Go Cookbook (which btw is such a great book for feeding young kids) for mini baked brown rice aranci, and adapted them with adult palates in mind and more of the flavors I typically like in a rice ball. This recipe cuts a substantial amount of fat by baking instead of frying and replaces the white rice with brown – but you still get plenty of flavor from the sausage and Pecorino Romano cheese.
A plate of cooked mini spinach and sausage arancini balls with a bowl of marinara sauce
You can make the filling ahead of time, roll them into balls and refrigerate until you are ready to bake them. I would bread them just before baking.

More arancini recipes you may enjoy:

These mini baked Italian rice balls are made with brown rice, chicken sausage, spinach and mozzarella cheese. Served with some warm marinara sauce, they make the perfect finger foods for the Holiday season or any time you want to serve appetizers.
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Baked Mini Spinach and Sausage Arancini

2
3
2
SP
89 Cals 5 Protein 11 Carbs 3 Fats
Total Time: 45 mins
Yield: 11 servings
COURSE: Appetizer
CUISINE: American
These mini baked Italian rice balls are made with brown rice, chicken sausage, spinach and mozzarella cheese. Served with some warm marinara sauce, they make the perfect finger foods for the Holiday season or any time you want to serve appetizers.

Ingredients

  • 1 Italian chicken, or turkey sausage link, removed from casing
  • cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 large egg and 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice, hot
  • 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup chopped spinach
  • 1 large egg white
  • 3 tbsp Pecorino Romano
  • 2 tbsp quick marinara sauce, plus more for serving

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400° F. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
  • Place the flour, beaten egg and egg white, and bread crumbs in separate bowls.
  • Cook the sausage in a small saute pan, breaking it up as it cooks until cooked through.
  • Set aside to cool then place in a small chopper to mince.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the rice, sausage, mozzarella, spinach, egg white, pecorino romano cheese, and 2 tbsp marinara sauce mixing well.
  • Roll about 1 heaping tablespoon of the rice mixture into a round ball. Roll the ball in the flour, then the egg, and then the bread crumbs, shaking off any excess at each step.
  • Place the breaded rice ball on the prepared baking sheet.
  • Repeat with the remaining rice mixture until it has all been used up.
  • Bake the balls for 8 minutes, turn over, and bake for another 8 minutes, until they are a crisp golden brown.
  • Let the rice balls cool before serving, and serve with hot marinara sauce for dipping.

Nutrition

Serving: 2balls, Calories: 89kcal, Carbohydrates: 11g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 27mg, Sodium: 254mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g
Blue Smart Points: 2
Green Smart Points: 3
Purple Smart Points: 2
Points +: 2
Keywords: baked rice balls, mini baked arancini, mini rice balls

 

Chopped sausage in a food processor bowl, a mixing bowl with sausage, rice, cheese, spinach, bread crumbs, and marinara sauce, a mixing bowl with all ingredients combined
A bowl with an arancini ball being dipped in flour, a bowl with an arancini ball being dipped in egg, and a bowl with an arancini bowl being dipped in bread crumbs
A sheet pan with baked crispy mini arancini rice balls
Makes 22 balls.

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69 comments

  1. Can these be air_fried?

  2. Hi
    ST!
    What would be the best settings or cook time to do Arancini in an airfryer?
    Thoughts?
    Thanks!

  3. Do you use fresh spinach or frozen?

  4. Could I do these in the air fryer?!?

  5. I made these according to the directions, but had a lot of trouble rolling the balls. They’re just not holding together. I’m about to put them in the oven, so fingers crossed.

  6. Is the spinach frozen or fresh?

  7. I made these recently and they were delicious and a BIG hit!!! Thanks for all the amazing recipes!!

  8. Made these when I had family over. They were delicious! I doubled the recipe and not a single one was leftover.

  9. Made this for my family Christmas party as a healthier appetizer alternative. I recommend chilling the mixture before rolling it out – it was super-sticky and challenging to roll, especially when the rice was warm. I baked mine more like 10-11 minutes per side. They have wonderful texture and nice flavor. Note that I only got about 14 from the recipe using a tablespoon to measure . A zippy sauce is the perfect accompaniment.

  10. I just made these and I had the same trouble with them falling apart. But I was determined to make them! I did a little Googling and saw that arancini are most often made with risotto, which is wetter/stickier. So… I added a tiny bit of moisture (I used vegetable broth as I had it on had.) Then, I sort of mashed the whole mixture up using my hands, so it was sticking together better. I was then able to form the balls, not by "rolling" them but by sort of squishing and shaping them in my hand. They were still a bit delicate, but manageable. They're in the oven now – can't wait to taste one! 🙂

  11. We made these for a holiday brunch this weekend and it they were so yummy! Quite filling too! Will definitely be making this again.

    As someone who LOVES arancini, I had to try them… and so glad to have a healthier version to enjoy!!!

  12. Would you be able to do the prep the night before and then bread and cook the next day?

    • Yes, I am doing this tonight…this is from her comments in the recipe

      "You can make the filling ahead of time, roll them into balls and refrigerate until you are ready to bake them. I would bread them just before baking."

  13. I substituted sweet peas for the spinach and it turned out well. Next time, I think I'll make and freeze the balls in advance, because mine were falling apart throughout the prep process. The cooked balls held together nicely. But getting them formed & onto the baking sheet was really hard.

  14. Made these this afternoon. Wow, really good! I wish it wasn't such a pain to bread them. Any tricks so I don't have to rinse my hands after breading each one?

  15. Made these last night and they completely fell apart and would not form into balls. I used brown rice (that was still warm), whole wheat flour, breadcrumbs, Italian Pork sausage, shredded my own mozzarella cheese, chopped cooked spinach, etc. I have no idea why they wouldn't stick. I was so bummed that I threw them away.

  16. Also, will whole wheat flour work?

  17. I only have pork sausage – can I use that? Did you saute your spinach or use frozen chopped?

  18. I don't want to be breading them when guests are here. Can I bread them at say 7:00 and then put in the oven at 8:00?

  19. I made these for a work potluck. Delicious! How do you recommend reheating then at the office? I don't want to dry then out but want to try to keep the crunch. Thanks!

  20. I made these exactly as written and they completely wouldn't hold together. Just a crumbly mess. So I think I'll add some more spinach and marinara and convert it to a casserole! Gotta do something with all of this wonderfulness!

  21. My husband saw me looking at these and goes, "Make Those!" — I agree with him 🙂

  22. How would you recommend preparing these ahead of time? I want to take these to a small gathering where I am able to bake them there. Should I prep them and then just pop them in the oven when I get to the gathering?

  23. These gave me some great inspiration for a vegan/gluten free ball I wanted to make for my xmas dinner! Going for the kind you can dip in red sauce and I think this is just what I was looking for. Do you think they would work with farro instead of rice?

  24. Delicious!! They look amazing!! Can't wait to try them!! Thanks for the recipe!!

  25. Looks delish! How can I make them gluten free? Any suggestions for subbing the flour? And can these be made ahead?

  26. Can these be frozen and then thawed when ready to bake? Is this fresh or frozen spinach? Cant wait to try!

  27. Thank you so much! My husband had a heart attack three years ago and your website helps me make different meals, without the boredom. We are Italian and rice balls are a big thing for us. I can't wait to make them! I would have never thought to bake them. Thanks again!

  28. These look awesome and I'm definitely making them for Christmas Eve!

  29. ok, so I made this recipe, but the "balls" don't stay together. Now, I had to sub a few things so I have questions for you:
    1. I didn't have brown rice, so I used basmatti;
    2. Didn't have spinach so I used a combo of roasted onion, garlic, red pepper and zucchini (which I blotted to remove the access liquid;
    3. Didn't have the Romano, so used shaved parmesan that I crumbled;
    4. I didn't have sausage so I cooked up some extra lean ground turkey and seasoned it to taste like italian sausage.
    I understand that I completely changed the recipe, however what do you think would have caused them to not stick together? Is brown rice stickier then basmati? I decided to freeze them and try to coat them once frozen or part way frozen. Either way they do taste good. Love your recipes and the fact that you include the WW + points is a bonus. Thank you!

    • fyi, the 3 that I made that didn't fall apart were delish. Once the others were frozen, I had no problem rolling them in the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs. Next time I will just make the recipe as it is. lol

    • I would imagine that the extra lean ground turkey had less fat in it then the Italian sausage. Which likely acted as a binder in the recipe. Also the cheese was also likely acting as a binder and perhaps the change in texture of the cheese caused a difference. I don't think the rice swap caused much of a difference, nor the veg swap, although its possible the veg swap caused too much liquid.

      However, my money is on your missing fat content.

    • I tried to make the filling sticky with the warm rice, sauce, cheese and egg whites. If your rice is cold it make not stick well, the whole point here is you want it a little mushy so it forms into balls.

    • Also basmati may be the issue, I find brown rice works.

  30. What do you think about subbing the brown rice with quinoa?

  31. this is fantastic!!! I was searching your blog yesterday for a arancini recipe, when I couldn't find one I thought I would just "wing it"!!! Thanks so much!!! My ideas were what you have done, but GREAT to know it works!!! Can't wait to make these for my family's Christmas party! THANK YOU!!

  32. Is the spinach fresh or frozen?

  33. Those look amazing! I like how you substituted the sausage for chicken sausage and added the brown rice to increase the fiber! Definitely pinning this one for the holidays!
    Meet @ the Barre

  34. I'm curious, I can buy my sausage meat uncased by my butcher; what is the weight amount of one sausage link? This looks amazing and can't wait to make these when i host my first christmas dinner this year!

  35. they look soooo good…maybe I'll just make a batch for me myself and I…

  36. What brand of sausage do you prefer?

  37. Rachel, I haven't tried it with this recipe, but I've had success in other recipes subbing seasoned sautéed mushrooms for sausage. Get a good meaty mushroom, like sliced cremini (baby bella), and brown them in a pan. When they start to release their liquid, add Italian sausage spices — garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano and basil (or an Italian herb blend), crushed anise seeds or fennel seeds, salt and black pepper. Continue to sauté until the liquid has evaporated. Cool, and follow the recipe as directed. Alternately, you could use a ready-made vegetarian sausage, though it might be a little drier.

  38. To make these vegetarian, would I just remove the sausage or is there something else you would suggest substituting to give them flavor? Thanks!

  39. Can these be prepared in advance before baking? I'd like to make for the holidays!

  40. Oooh this is going in my 'to make' pile! We have hors devours on Christmas Eve and these would be PERFECT to serve!

  41. looks both healthy and yummy
    XX Luba

    New Year´s Eve look ideas, today on
    http://www.well-living-blog.com

  42. I am curious too about the homemade bread crumbs! I'd like to make my own.

  43. Just curious – do you make your own seasoned bread crumbs? I generally save my ends and other pieces I don't use up of whole wheat bread and use that for crumbs. If you make your own would you be willing to share what you season them with?

    Thanks in advance!

  44. Molto appetitosi!!!!